Sunday, October 25, 2009

Jesus Brought God's Grace
(Luke 4:16-22)

Today, Nazareth is the capital and the largest city in the Northern District of Israel, having a population of about 185,000. In Jesus’ time, Nazareth was a village in lower Galilee. People of that time often looked down upon the village and its inhabitants. This attitude may have been caused by Nazareth’s small size, unpolished dialect of the inhabitants, a general lack of culture or significance, and perhaps even questionable moral and religious respectability. Even so, it soon became a place of significance because Jesus grew up there.

Jesus went to the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath, as was His custom for so many years. Jesus must have been respected in the synagogue and must have been asked on several occasions to read from Scripture and comment on it. Jesus stood to read the Scriptures. Jesus was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. We do not know if Jesus asked for this particular scroll, but we do know that Jesus was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. Jesus chose a particular place in the scroll from which to read. We know this Scripture passage as Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus used this passage to emphasize His identification with the subject of Isaiah’s writing—the Messiah.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
--Luke 4:18-19 NIV

This Scripture passage gives the purpose for Jesus’ coming. The passage that Jesus read in the synagogue announces that the Spirit of the Lord is upon the Christ, the One anointed by God. Anointing means to set aside for some unique and special purposes. Jesus had come to proclaim God’s good news and to heal broken lives.

Luke tells us that after reading, Jesus rolled up the scroll, returned it, and sat down. Sitting indicated that Jesus would discuss and explain what He had read. As everyone listened Jesus told them that God’s Word, spoken long ago by Isaiah, had been fulfilled as they were listening. The long wait was over.

The people complemented Jesus on his reading and they were amazed as they listened to His comments, which Luke characterizes as words of grace.

Even so, the people wondered at what they heard. They asked each other, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” They had watched this one grow from a little boy into a man. But He was more than that. He was Jesus, Son of god, who brought God’s grace into the world.

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